The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not hear an appeal by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association requesting that Monsanto agree to not sue GMO trait patent violators if plants containing the traits were inadvertently grown.
The case was filed in a Manhattan Federal District Court by OSGTA and a collection of others in 2011.
"U.S. family farmers should not have to endure legal intimidation by giant corporate agribusinesses, like Monsanto, when genetic pollution from their products contaminates crops," said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute, one of the plaintiffs.
The groups said inadvertent pollination of non-GMO crops by GMO varieties was a serious concern, and Monsanto should agree to not sue if it happens.
But the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit told the group in June that it could not challenge Monsanto because the company had already made "binding assurances" that it will not take legal action against growers whose crops contain trace amounts of the company's patented genes.
According to its Farmers & Patents commitment document, Monsanto has already committed to avoiding lawsuits when unintended contamination is believed to be at fault.
"We do not exercise our patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits are present in a farmer's fields as a result of inadvertent means," the document says.
Related commentary: Organic Appeal Against Monsanto: A Menacing Bear or Trojan Horse?
The appeals court judges affirmed a previous decision from the Southern District of New York that the plaintiffs in the case did not present a sufficient controversy to warrant judgment by the courts.
While the court did not side with OSGTA as a whole, the group feels they received a partial victory, because three justices agreed with the assertion that contamination by Monsanto was "inevitable."
The justices determined that trace amounts of patented material would be defined as 1%, and if plants are found to contain less than 1% of patented material, Monsanto may not sue.